Story and photos by Joanne Maisano
You are driving down a beautiful country lane when you see a hawk injured on the side of the road. You want to help but aren’t sure how to handle this raptor. Thankfully, there is a place you can contact. Nestled in the woods, down Island Farm Lane in Boyce, Virginia, sits the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, a place that makes you feel like you are stepping into a fairytale.
At my first visit, I was eye to eye with an incredible bald eagle named Jefferson in his large enclosure. Jefferson arrived badly injured but had the great good fortune to be treated and rehabilitated by the outstanding veterinary staff at BRWC. Though he healed, his injuries prevent him from returning to the wild. He started to squawk as I walked by as if to greet me. Next to him is a red-tailed hawk that was hit by a car. His wing recovered successfully, but he lost the vision in his right eye. Raptors need 100 percent of their vision to survive in the wild, so like Jefferson, he was unable to be released.
As I continued my tour there were cages for Beaker the skunk, Blossom the opossum and Snow the artic fox. Fortunately, these animals have a place to live out their lives, but there are more injured every day. Where will the new animals go? BRWC takes in all wildlife except bear and deer, so that leaves a lot of species of animals that could get hurt and in need of their help.
Ronald Bradley and his wife Danielle are hosting this year’s fundraising Gala at their beautiful estate Locksley Manor in Millwood on September 29. Their wish is for guests of this gala to purchase more of these cages for the animals that get rescued and treated but are unable to return to their native habitat. In return, the donors will get their name put on a plaque outside the cage they have purchased and the satisfaction of knowing they have provided a safe haven for these wonderful creatures.
The new facility has a treatment room, a surgical suite, radiology room, species-specific rooms, and a kitchen to prepare the meals for the animals—I am grateful the dead mice were not on the menu the day I visited. There are rooms for mammals, reptiles and raptors. I was lucky to get a glimpse of Dopey the elusive screech owl.
There were many snapping turtles in recovery after surgery. It was impressive to see how they can attach a broken shell together using eyehooks until it mends back together. Hillary Russell Davidson, executive director of BRWC told me, “We have a 400 percent increase of snapping turtles since last year, so we are looking for donations to help us add more rooms.”
Last year they took in 1,827 injured animals, of which 124 were unique species native to this area. “So far, we have had more than 1,300 patients and are forecasting over 2,100 animals coming in this year,” said Davidson. “It’s bad because more animals are getting hurt but good that people know to bring them here—so it’s a mixed blessing to have such a high number.”
During my visit I was able to watch a classroom of youngsters learn about skunks with their ambassador Beeker. The children were part of the camp they have for four weeks in the summer. The Ronald M. Bradley Learning Center was donated by Ron and Danielle Bradley in 2016 with the goal of getting kids “to learn about wildlife and their habitats and hope they develop an interest in science, conservation and the environment.” The learning center will also provide educational programs for all ages. Ron is no stranger to philanthropy. He has helped raise funds for such foundations as Middleburg Humane and Great Meadow and made a very large donation to the National Sporting Library and Museum. He hopes people will buy tables for the Gala so their wishes of obtaining new cages and species rooms come to fruition. The center relies solely on donations to function.
On behalf of Beaker, Blossom, Jefferson, Snow and Dopey, we hope many of you buy a table to this wonderful Gala and get a chance to meet all of these marvelous creatures yourselves. ML